DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Architecture Is Fun

Posted in Architecture Is Fun on June 28, 2016 9:07 am EDT

A Child’s Best Hour: Why Churches Must Value the Experiential

From murals to illustration to all that is experiential -- art can resonate with children and families for its uplifting, friendly nature. And as designers and creators of children's spaces, we can help drive home this truth.

Image courtesy of Architecture is Fun.









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TAGS: architecture, art, children's space, community connection, modern church,


By Peter Exley, FAIA, and Sharon Exley, MAAE, ASID

As designers and artists, we know that children’s environments have the capacity to create memories that last a lifetime.

We like to collect artists and share them with projects. Molly Z. is an artist we connected to immediately – her work – from murals to teaching and from illustration to all that is “experiential” resonates with children and families for its uplifting, friendly nature. Children’s projects can be found in ubiquitous multi-purpose spaces lurking in basements where bright colors and a slide may not be enough. You may need a design revolution. Artists like Molly Z. help us make that happen, sharing mission-based messages in positive, direct ways.

The DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, Ill., suffered a catastrophic flood last year, damaging a great deal of the museum – walls, floors, furniture, and exhibits. A large birthday party/multi-purpose room (living in the basement) was wiped out. New walls, a branded bright palette, and great flooring helped transform the room, yet it was Molly’s mural that super charges the space. Now called "Imagine," the room bubbles up with possibilities and has a distinct character that families adore.

Once the museum re-opened with great success, we decided to continue our design dialogues with Molly. Our [first] topic of choice was: “Why does it matter to design for children’s ministries?”

Many children’s ministries double as weekday childcare facilities and, even more, do triple duty, [becoming] spaces for adult programming [as needed]. On a recent project, Molly says she was spending time and energy defending the costs of story and experience and why they are essential to the success of children’s environments. As designers and artists, we know that children’s environments have the capacity to create memories that last a lifetime. They can ignite the imagination and be inspirational. What is your own personal memory of the church environment when you were a child? Did the environment draw you in and create wonder? Do the children’s areas [in] your church [projects] ignite curiosity about God? We believe it’s important work to create spaces at churches so children learn about God in beautiful, colorful, spiritual surroundings.

Genesis 1:31 - And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good.

Architecture Is Fun’s very first church project was with the innovative Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind. At our first meeting, Pastor Beeson told us he wanted the church to be the best hour in a child’s day. The resulting sensorial design of the children’s ministry turned institutional classrooms into engaging experiences. Children asked to return each and every weekend and to bring their friends, increasing attendance figures more than 60%. The children’s ministry, an instant hit with [some] 800 children, became so successful that within two years an expansion was required. Today, 1,500 children fill the center’s 3,000 square meters of interactivity, offering families experiences that promote spiritual awareness in culturally relevant ways.

When the person at the top realizes that the children’s ministry is THE driver of everyone coming to church -- and when kids love the spaces they find themselves in, these experiences become a giant invitation to all.

“When churches see God as the creator of beauty, art, nature, light and joy,” Molly says, “the visual experience generates positive associations that help develop a person’s moral, spiritual and physical character; it can help lead to who you become and what you believe.” Aesthetic surroundings also create a sense of belonging and safety, which supports ministry initiatives to create comfortable, safe spaces where children can learn, question and process with others.

Of course, we acknowledge that there are many items on a church to-do list that leave little budget remaining for kids' spaces. That’s why an earlier designer blog of ours suggests fundraising specifically for designing children’s ministries. Children use their environments to learn and play, to make connections to the church, and to positively influence their families.

[Our call to action: Architects, experiential or interior designers, invite your church clients to draw their children’s ministries into the experiential world of the child.]

Don’t miss Part Two coming soon:

A Child’s Best Hour: A Children’s Ministry Must Speak to Kids (Story, System & Surprise)





Learn more about the companies in this story:

Molly Z.


Architecture is Fun



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